Customer Service Leads to Member Engagement!

While meeting with an association executive today, she mentioned that her team had difficulties working with their volunteers. She said the staff often acted like the volunteers worked for them and they weren’t making good choices on how interact with them. It made me wonder what has been lost when it comes to member service over the last 20 years.

I have been fortunate enough to work for associations where we truly “served” our members and volunteers. Fortunately, many of our association customers still have an attitude of service to their members. However, I have also seen and experienced organizations who do not serve their top volunteers or the general membership.

I have had personal experiences with an association who I used to volunteer a lot of my time, tell me this year that they don’t have time to post free programs that I was putting together for them at no cost, they were unable to help with set up or be of any assistance for meetings being held at their office for the larger membership….a meeting I was asked to arrange and promote. This has only changed my attitude from committed and engaged (bringing others to meeting and getting others to get involved) to being disengaged and looking to other organizations where I can feel I make a difference.

Associations have lots of competition today. LinkedIn groups can easily be started, other organizations are available to join , they can get CE from for profit and/or other nonprofit organizations and technology has a low cost of entry for new products and services to be available.

Today more than ever, organizations need to train their employees on the basics of customer service and how to create member loyalty. A focus on member loyalty can greatly advance an organization. With any business, I feel it is important to make your customers (members) feel they are important.

Following are a few things to consider.

1) Be a good listener – take time to really listen to your members, especially those that are the most engaged.

2) Identify and anticipate needs – Your members don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems.

3) Make your volunteers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals.  I recall being involved with an organization several years ago where I walked into the office, felt welcomed and had the support of the staff. It truly made a difference to my commitment to the organization.

4) Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, own it and apologize. It’s easy and can make a huge difference. Deal with problems immediately. Value complaints as much as we dislike it. Your most passionate volunteers will provide feedback that can give you the opportunity to improve if you listen and act.

5) Give more than expected. The future of all companies and associations lies in keeping customers happy.

Associations need to think of ways to elevate yourselves:

  • What can your constituents get from you that they can’t get elsewhere?
  • What do you do to thank your members for supporting your organization?
  • What can you do to make your top volunteers feel supported and ensure they stay engaged?

Your members don’t have to participate in your organization and many times the work they are doing for you is not their core competency.

Create a culture of customer service and watch your organization thrive!

Continue this discussion at or contact for customer service training for your organization.

One comment

  1. Sherry,I think your comments about Customer Service are very accurate and appropriate. 

    I would only add that in my experience good customer service starts with the CEO setting the stage, the example and expectations.  In one situation I was a finalist to become the new CEO where customer service was clearly a concern. organization.  In the final interview, the Board asked me how I felt about answering members telephone calls and emails.  I replied that if I was hired, I would personally answer every phone call and email from a member.  They looked at me in astonishment and disbelief.  They said that the prior CEO always delegated another staff member to answer members phone calls and emails, and was one of the reasons that person’s contract was not extended.   I said that even if I did not have the answer to the question or concern, I would return the call, tell the member what we were doing and when they could expect a call back from the staff member that was the most knowledgeable about the situation in question.  I got the job, and did exactly what I promised.  The turn around in attitude towards the staff and the association was apparent in just a few weeks, and we started getting unsolicited positive comments about staff’s commitment to the organization.  As in so many aspects of association governance, the CEO sets the tone for staff, but also sets a tone and expectation for Board members and committees that are made up of members.  Most Board members are willing and able and interested in communicating with their fellow members, but some are not used to having unsolicited comments about their performance, so the CEO and Senior Staff can help them in that learning process. 

    Thanks for this post, Sherry, and I hope it stimulates other dialog on this important subject. Ron Ronald S. Moen

    From: associationjourney To: Sent: Friday, December 18, 2015 10:02 PM Subject: [New post] Customer Service Leads to Member Engagement! #yiv6183172434 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6183172434 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6183172434 a.yiv6183172434primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6183172434 a.yiv6183172434primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6183172434 a.yiv6183172434primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6183172434 a.yiv6183172434primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6183172434 | Sherry Budziak posted: “While talking with an association executive today, she mentioned that her team had difficulties working with their volunteers. She mentioned that the staff often acted like the volunteers worked for them and they weren’t making good choices on how to work” | |


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